The Humane Society of the United States masquerades as a protector of pets while plotting the demise of the dairy industry, a critic of the group said Thursday.
David Martosko, speaking in Modesto at the annual meeting of Western United Dairymen, said the society is attacking milk producers as part of its effort to turn Americans into vegans.
"They are not promoting kinder treatment of farm animals," said Martosko, director of research for the Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, D.C. "They are promoting the abolition of farm animals."
Martosko said many people believe that the society mainly funds dog and cat shelters when in fact it spends most of its hefty income on lobbying, salaries and political donations.
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He told the dairy farmers that Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, is "the biggest enemy you have."
Pacelle, in a phone interview Tuesday, said the society simply wants to see that livestock get good care. He said he has met with California dairy leaders to discuss his concerns, including the handling of sick cows at slaughter and the recently banned practice of cutting off cows' tails.
Martosko's outfit, he said, is a "corporate front group" that also has attacked anti- smoking activists and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"I must say I am disappointed that the dairy industry would invite such a discredited person to speak," Pacelle said.
Several hundred California dairy farmers are attending the Modesto-based group's three-day meeting, which concludes today at Modesto Centre Plaza. Much of the gathering has dealt with the slow recovery in the price of milk, the No. 1 farm product in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and statewide.
The Humane Society of the United States, based in the nation's capital, already has roiled the California egg industry with the passage of a 2008 ballot measure aimed at small hen cages.
Speaker calls activists 'humaniacs'
Martosko said activists with the society, whom he dubbed "humaniacs," believe that animals have rights and should not be eaten, hunted or used in laboratories.
"The humaniacs are people who make it their life's mission to use the concept of humane treatment of animals in order to hobble you, to drive you out of business," he said.
The Center for Consumer Freedom last month launched www.humanewatch.org, a Web site that monitors the society.
Martosko showed videos of Humane Society leaders acknowledging their vegan beliefs — a counterpoint to the videos of animal abuse the society has obtained at meat processing plants and other locations.
The society has responded on its Web site, arguing that most of the income to Martosko's group goes to a for-profit public relations firm.
"The Center for Consumer Freedom is not a consumer organization," Pacelle said.
He added that the Humane Society of the United States never has claimed to operate pet shelters, but does provide veterinary care.
Martosko also criticized People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is known for eye-catching demonstrations against fur, meat and other animal uses.
He said these antics allow the Humane Society of the United States to appear reasonable in comparison, but the two groups have the same goal of ending animal agriculture.
Barbara Martin, a Kings County dairy farmer who blogs about industry issues, said she is glad to see Martosko take on the society.
"We need someone who exposes the truth," she said after his talk. "Most of the people don't realize that they're giving money and it's not going to help animals. It's going to promote a vegan lifestyle."
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Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.